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2020 Nobel Peace Prize Winner, World Food Programme, is Waging War Against Hunger in the Pandemic

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The WFP has been the world’s largest humanitarian agency combating hunger for the last six decades and works at a massive scale to cater to millions of poor and marginalized worldwide.

Earlier this month, the World Food Programme (WFP) was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize 2020 for its initiatives to fight hunger and facilitate better conditions for promoting peace in conflict-affected areas.

The WFP has been the world’s largest humanitarian agency combating hunger for the last six decades and works at a massive scale to cater to millions of poor and marginalized worldwide. However, with COVID-19 pandemic setting in, their efforts to win the fight against hunger faced a significant setback as the current health crisis has aggravated the struggles of the 690 million people across the world who already go to bed hungry. Therefore, the Nobel Committee’s recognition of the WFP’s work could not have come at a better time, as it brings the issue of hunger to the centre of the world’s attention.

Talking about the Nobel win, Bishow Parajuli, WFP Representative and the Country Director in India said in an interview to News18, “It is great recognition for the WFP, and our partners, but especially, for those who are hungry and need help. This award is for all those invisible faces and all those who are supporting them, and reaching out to them."

How Hunger Breeds Conflict

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Hunger is often a ‘weapon’ that can be used to intensify and/or propel conflicts. Hunger and armed conflicts are, in fact, part of a vicious circle. Conflicts can bring about food insecurity, and similarly, hunger and food insecurity can cause latent tensions to flare up into full-blown wars, or civil strifes.

Recognising this close association of hunger and conflict, the Nobel committee decided to confer the ‘Peace prize’ on World Food Programme for their work on hunger.

“Hunger impacts people at different levels. When an individual is hungry, the person has already reached the bottom and is unable to access a fundamental right like food. She/He has a constant element of an empty stomach, so obviously, that breeds unhappiness and brings conflict. Like they say in Africa, ‘a hungry man is an angry man’," said Parajuli.

There are other severe situations like famine, where communities or entire villages are affected, and that brings about conflict for the lack of availability of food materials, pointed out Parajuli.

“Another example of hunger breeding conflict is whenever there are efforts in some countries to withdraw subsidies and increase prices of food. A concern engulfs the poor section of the population, most of whom spend almost 60-70 per cent of their earnings on food. They worry that if food becomes even more expensive, then it will be more difficult for them to afford it. Thus, they resort to protest, which can give rise to further conflict," explained Parajuli.

The Cost of a Plate of Food to Eradicate Hunger:

As we observe World Food Day on October 16, a new report released by the World Food Programme serves as a cruel reminder of how millions across the world still do not have access to a basic meal.

The WFP’s Cost of a Plate of Food 2020 report shows the countries where a basic meal such as rice and beans costs the most when compared with people’s incomes. South Sudan tops the list where basic food ingredients cost 186 per cent of a person’s daily income. Seventeen of the top 20 countries featured in the index are in sub-Saharan Africa. India features within the top 30 countries.

“This new report exposes the destructive impact of conflict, climate change and economic crises, now compounded by COVID-19, in driving up hunger,” said WFP’s Executive Director David Beasley.

“It’s the most vulnerable people who feel the worst effects. Their lives were already on edge – before the coronavirus pandemic we were looking at the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II – and now their plight is so much worse as the pandemic threatens nothing less than a humanitarian catastrophe,” he added.

Currently, according to the WFP estimates lives and livelihoods of up to 270 million people are likely to be under severe threat in 2020 unless immediate actions are taken to mitigate the effects of the pandemic. Therefore, WFP is helping by providing food and cash assistance. The humanitarian agency is also aiding governments to widen their safety nets and ensure effective food systems.

How WFP is Working to Mitigate the Impact of the Pandemic in India

Two years after establishment, WFP began to function in India in 1963 and has since then undertaken a varied range of initiatives until now, with a focus on advocacy and addressing malnutrition. However, with the pandemic raging, migrant workers walking back home during the lockdown, the humanitarian the organization took up a more significant role in mitigating the crisis.

“As COVID-19 began to spread, WFP retargeted all their campaign to the pandemic," said Parajuli

“Our participation in India is advisory and based on evidence on the ground during the pandemic, we gave our feedback to the government daily. We also mobilized extra support and enabled NGOs to do their work during this crisis. In certain areas, we complimented the government efforts by providing a direct food support line during the lockdown, and we continued to work on the nutrition program." he added.

Apart from that, Parajuli pointed out that WFP also worked with the Ministry of Human Resources in the school relaunch program. WFP recently signed an MoU with the Uttar Pradesh State Rural Livelihood Mission. “Under the agreement, WFP will provide technical assistance for setting up supplementary nutrition production units in 18 districts for the supply of quality food to about 33 lakh beneficiaries of the Anganwadi scheme (Integrated Child Development Services)."

WFP has also initiated several innovative technological measures like building a prototype of a grain ATM — Automatic Grain Dispensing Machine (Annapurti), which will allow people to withdraw their foodgrain quota accurately and at a time of their choice. It can dispense two commodities at a speed of 25 kg per 1.3 minutes. It has a storage capacity of 200 kg to 500 kg. It has also incorporated Mobile Storage Units for the effective implementation of TPDS.

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